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Making West Virginia More Veteran Friendly

For several years, Delegate Fleischauer served as Co-Chair of the Select Joint Interim Committee on Veterans Affairs.  In between the yearly 60-day sessions, the Legislature holds interim meetings for three days each month to study problems and make recommendations for future legislation.  The Committee’s initial focus was on veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.  When service members return to normal civilian life, the goal has been to ensure that our state does everything possible to ease the transition for them and for their families.

In 2007, the committee commissioned a survey led by West Virginia University researchers of all recent West Virginia veterans and service members who had applied for our state's veteran's bonus.  The West Virginia Legislature was the only Legislature in the country to conduct such an extensive survey.

Over 1,000 West Virginia replied.  The committee’s report, issued in 2008, gave a more complete picture of the difficulties veterans were experiencing, including higher rates of depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) than national estimates.  The survey indicated that symptoms of depression and/or PTSD were experienced by nearly 48 percent of those who responded.

The Select Committee commissioned a second survey five years later, and a second report was issued.  For the second survey, responses were sought from veterans of all ages who had served at any time.  West Virginia service members and veterans aged 19-94 responded, resulting in the retrieval of twelve million points of data.  The most critical finding was that about 20 percent of the surveyed veterans were at a clinically significant risk of suicide.  In addition, a surprising number of veterans indicating they had experienced homelessness during periods of their lives, and female veterans with children reported they had been homeless at a higher rate.

There were also positive findings.  For example, the majority of service members or veterans reported that they had adjusted well and were satisfied with their lives.  Once again, no other state Legislature has conducted such an extensive survey of veterans and service members from all eras and campaigns.

As a result of the data collected during these surveys, Delegate Fleischauer passed  legislation or helped secure funding for several programs that expanded education, employment, medical and mental health benefits, as well as other services for active members of the military or veterans of our state.

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